Disclaimer: Still a work in progress, as I will soon be replacing my current ML filter, featuring the ugly black intake that used to perfectly match my old black background but now conspicuously occupies the middle of the tank, with a slimmer AC filter whose intake is discreet and clear and on the far left side, largely negating the need to obscure the eyesore intake, as well as the need to light from underneath the filter. I will also be removing the heater from its glass suction cups and hiding it on the substrate, just as soon as I get around to clearing out a space for it behind the ludwigia. So, speaking of the good ol' black background, I was, until very recently, one of the many fish keepers who believed it was our only option for creating depth and making colors pop - or at least the only one that didn't require the use of a foam cutter and a hot glue gun. And, honestly, I was never really big on the whole rock wall thing anyway, as both it and the black background essentially do the same thing: They bring the background forward. Which to my mind is totally counterintuitive to what a background should do, right? What I wanted was a background that truly connected with the foreground and created the illusion that the space really extended beyond the dimensions of the tank. With that in mind, my starting point was those professional aquascapes I love so much, with the frosted glass backgrounds and usually dramatic colored lighting that often comes from underneath, rather than from above. I asked myself: What if that lighting were more natural and applied more realistically? Then I found online some marine tanks with bulky wooden shadowbox backgrounds, replete with large, heavy rock work and expensive lighting systems. What if that basic effect could be achieved for a freshwater environment, with materials that were not so large, heavy and expensive? OK, so enough talk. After much experimentation, here's what I've come up with so far. Keep in mind the smart phone camera I am currently forced to use doesn't nearly capture and reproduce color or depth of field with any reasonable degree of accuracy. Before After After rescape and lighting upgrade And here's how I did it, step by step. 1) Apply frosted window film (available at Home Depot/Lowes for around $20) to cut-to-size clear acrylic sheet (another $20 for 50 gallon tanks and under, plus $6 cost of acrylic cutting tool) and place behind tank, frosted side forward (very important, as imperfections in application from reverse side are much more visible once back lit.) Film could also be applied directly to back outside wall of tank, but I personally wanted the option of removing it if I didn't like it or wanted a change down the road. 2) Using black construction paper, cut out terrain shape(s) and duck tape to back of acrylic sheet (or to the back wall of tank itself, if window film was applied directly.) 3) Light the area behind the tank. I used three remote controlled LED puck lights with color and brightness adjustment, which were priced around $35 at HD. I imagine the $130 LED strip lighting system I had my eye on would have produced even better results, but then I wouldn't have been able to use the word "cheap" in my thread topic. I simply taped the puck lights to the tank's top cover at the point where the chord joins with the light itself and allowed them to rest there horizontally as close to the edge as they could go without falling, lighting the wall behind the tank. The third puck light was fastened to a sliver of firewood and placed under the HOB filter to better light that area. Now, you could conceivably stop right there and already have a far more compelling background than any black painted glass or cheesy Petco stock scene with the endless wall of plastic plants. But if you're feeling adventurous, keep reading. 4) The fun part. Gather branches/sticks/leaves/bark from the yard, along with some fake plants from PetSmart (definitely the best selection of cheap fake plants in my particular neck of the woods.) No need to worry about things like sap or tannins or pesticides for once, just grab off the ground or from above what looks best to your eyes. Than grab some more. And some more. You'll be surprised how that one piece you almost left behind is the one piece you needed to complete the effect once everything else is laid in. 5) The not-so-fun part. Warning: You will quickly find that the smallest knob on the smallest twig from the smallest branch will somehow latch onto and move an entire fire log sliver you're using for a base, upsetting everything sitting on top of it in the process. You will also find that branches have more latching twigs than you can visually account for. With all that in mind, carefully place the decor you've gathered between the black construction paper and the acrylic sheet. I wish I could tell you there was a method to the madness, but there simply isn't. You just have to experiment with different combinations until you find the look that works best for your particular tank design and the fit that just, well - fits. 6) (Optional) Obsess over ways you can make your awesome background even better. I'm still diligently working on this step, so you'll have to make sure and check back later to see what comes of it. That's it, I guess. Not too shabby for around $70, I'd say. Can't wait to read your feedback. By all means, don't hold back any criticism you may have, as it will only help improve the final product. I've been looking at this thing far too close for far too long, TBH. I could use the fresh eyes and the honest perspective they bring.